Americans With Disabilities Act

April 27, 1992

WHO:

Employers with 15 or more employees. (But the law doesn't make this definition quite so simple. Technically, the law applies to any business with 15 or more employees for each working day 20 weeks or more in the current or preceding year.)

WHEN:

July 26 for employers with 25 or more employees. Those with 15 to 25 employees can wait an extra two years.

WHAT:

Employers must not discriminate against disabled workers and applicants. The law requires that they make "reasonable accommodations" for all workers with disabilities. A disabled person is defined as anyone who has ever had or is perceived as having an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Unlike longstanding Maryland law, the ADA says people with diseases such as AIDS and recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are disabled. Current drug abusers and alcoholics are not protected. The ADA is not an affirmative action law. It does not require employers to recruit disabled applicants or hire anyone but the most qualified applicant.

HOW:

*Employers should make sure disabled people can apply to their businesses. This may mean making employment offices more accessible or providinng alternative application procedures.

*Job application forms should be reviewed and corrected. The law bans questions about disabilities or medical history. Employers can ask if applicants will need any accommodations to perform the jobs for which they are applying.

*Job descriptions should be reviewed annd corrected. The law requires employers to make their decisions based on "essential job functions." They must make sure job descriptions ae valid and don't require abilities that aren't really necessary.

Stop pre-offer medical examinations. Employers may require a physical examination for people to whom they've offered jobs.

*But they may not use the medical information to revoke that offer unless the physician unearths information that directly affects the person's ability to perform the job's essenntial functions. The law does not change drug testing regulations.

*Train interviewers of job applicants about the law. Interviewers will no longer be able to ask directly about disabilities or medical histories. But they may ask an applicant what accommodations they need to perform the job, and can ask them to explain or demonstrate how they will do the job.

*Make reasonable accommodationns for employees who become disabled. The disabled person is responsible for asking for needed accommodations. But an employer can refuse to make the changes if he or she believes the accommodations would be an "undue hardship" on the business. The law does not clearly define undue hardships, but says the courts should view hardships in relation to the company's size and ability to pay.

OR ELSE

...If a disabled person feels discriminated against, he or she can file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as sue employers in federal court. If the charges are upheld, large employers can be charged compensatory damages, legal fees and up to $300,000 in punitive damages. Smaller employers face lower liability.

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